As it happens, today I received an email from the great Firefox team behind https://monitor.firefox.com (which I recommend enrolling to), the breach was about a company called PDL – which is weird as I’ve never heard of them, what happened to GDPR? – or more likely one of their “customers”. The breach, according to https://haveibeenpwned.com is from an “unprotected Elasticsearch server holding 1.2 billion records of personal data. The exposed data included an index indicating it was sourced from data enrichment company People Data Labs (PDL) and contained 622 million unique email addresses”. The worse of it is that “The server was not owned by PDL and it’s believed a customer failed to properly secure the database. Exposed information included email addresses, phone numbers, social media profiles and job history data” – if you are interested, please read more about it here: https://www.troyhunt.com/data-enrichment-people-data-labs-and-another-622m-email-addresses/
Now, the issue is very serious, not so much for the quality of data that was stolen, most of it is public domain anyway or visible through LinkedIn or such, although there is some disconcerting stuff, for example a possible physical address and phone number that may be used for further tracking or for illegal activities, but it’s once again what is happening with our privacy, we become cheap exchange coins in a multibillion business, we have no control over what is done with our data and what is out there, may be it the pictures and names of our kids, our habits, when we are at home or in holiday, where we live, how we earn. Think about that for a minute.
A company you didn’t ever heard of sells a full package of your profile that includes things like your job and position, where you live, where yours kids go to school or use to play in the public park and when, your buying habits on Amazon, your cellphone and email. You become a target now, they can kidnap your kids for money, they can come to rob you when it’s safest for them, they can use this information to blackmail or stalking. There’s a whole world of damages here and you should freak out.
And this isn’t even the worse of it.
Our privacy should be considered a value but we’re becoming so used to this as if “I have nothing to hide” really means “I have everything to give”. No you don’t.
We are bombarded by services that try to understand our way of thinking and predict our behaviours to sell us something, to the extreme of rigging elections, and the worse of it is that this is even largely legal. Think about this next time you participate to the social media “see how you look when you are old” game that becomes the world largest and more comprehensive study on facial recognition. Think about this when you participate to “Sing like Freddie Mercury” that is helping Google build an immense database of voice recognition as well as synthetic voice reconstruction. Think about that when you play “what actor am I” that gave Cambridge Analytica the power to Brexit and Trump, and is still resonating in the far right movements across the globe.
Yes, we need better laws to help us, but we need even more urgently education, and understanding.